After viewers tune into the fourth and final season of Servant, they might find themselves humming a certain samba rhythm after watching one particular episode. That seductive and sensual melody will be “Selfish,” the new track released by Saleka Shyamalan, aka Saleka, today (Feb. 24). The song, while also being featured on the M. Night Shyamalan AppleTV Original series, will also appear on Saleka’s upcoming EP, Songs From The Attic, which will also collect all her singles from the series. But, as she shares, “Selfish” almost became a different track. “The episode that I wrote ‘Selfish’ for, was written and directed by my brilliant sister Ishana Shyamalan!” she tells HollywoodLife.
“I had an idea for a song that I had started writing after reading the script and even started recording it,” says Saleka. “But then talked to my sister more about the scene and realized I needed to shift directions. So I threw out that first song and started a whole new one, which became ‘Selfish.’ I realized the song needed a little bit of spunk and mysticism. This wasn’t just a song playing in the background of a sweet romantic moment between Leanne (Nell Tiger Gree) and Julian (Rupert Grint), there is a lot of tension and darkness here as well. Ishana and I call this song Leanne’s ‘witchy waltz.'”
“Sonically, the instrumentation really came together around the main piano chord/rhythm,” Saleka tells HL. “There were some tricky elements, but it was a super fun track to build, something that hopefully makes you want to move a little but also feels haunting. Lyrically, the song describes what it feels like to be falling in love with someone while terrible things are happening outside. The opening lines are meant to set that up right away: ‘The devil taps my window as you sleep here next to me, while the world is ending I will keep you company.'”
“I found this a really provocative dynamic, there can be such purity and beauty in it, but also heavy guilt, fear, and shame,” she adds. “Both sides are intense and true. Maybe this is a situation that others can relate to as well. How do we let ourselves feel love and happiness while knowing that others are suffering? Should we?”
This poignant perspective has made Saleka’s music not just an integral part of creating the perfect ambiance for Servant but why she’s a bright star in the music skyline. “Selfish” marks her second single of 2023, following “All I Want,” another track used in the M. Knight Shyamalan’s series. The final season wraps up in March, but Saleka’s music career will continue to ascend. In an EXCLUSIVE interview, she also explains her writing style, why she considers herself an “albums” artist, and when fans can expect her first full-length project to arrive.
HL: You had a prolific 2022, releasing numerous singles for the Apple TV series Servant, as well as a handful of independent singles. What do you credit to this creative streak?
Saleka: Well, firstly, thank you. I never thought of it that way! I am lucky to have many wonderful artists and musicians around me all the time, and it motivates me to keep iterating. Especially with my family, every time we are together we are talking about art and creativity, things we are struggling with, and new ideas we have. It’s the most supportive environment. I think also having the opportunity to write music for Servant was an ideal outlet for me. The show has so much depth and was constantly inspiring me. There is so much texture, emotion and mystery to dive into in each script that really makes me want to write. I think also having two very sonically different projects to write for simultaneously was very fun- they each kept teaching me things that helped the other. From working on Servant, I discovered that writing music for film and tv, especially long-form projects through a narrative, is something I truly love and hope to keep doing forever.
How does your writing style differ when creating music for a visual property like Servant, as compared to when you’re writing a song for you?
For Servant, I am writing through the voice of a fictional character Vivian Dale. I write each song from the scripts, and to fit a very specific function in the scene and within a character arc. I like to make the lyrics feel like a parallel storyline to what is happening in the show, especially from Leanne’s perspective, since her character connects with the music throughout. The album for the Servant show is also different sonically, I wanted to keep it more grounded in the live space, leaning more into the blues and jazz world, and not too modern. I also wanted to keep the instrumentation limited and consistent so it feels like one band the whole time. But like with my own music, I always want to create songs that I am very connected to emotionally and that always remains the most important element of songwriting to me.
Do you see yourself making an album? Streaming has changed the way we listen to music so that you could, theoretically, be a singles artist. Or do you have ambitions for a bigger project?
Definitely. I grew up listening to albums. I still listen mostly to albums, front to back. I’ve been releasing singles to start learning the industry and build a foundation, but all the singles are part of a larger project. And the Servant songs were all written and produced to exist as one full EP, which will come together on March 17th! I will also be releasing my own album later this spring, which will bring together many of the singles I have released with the rest of an album that I wrote simultaneously but haven’t shared yet.
How would you describe the Saleka fan? Like, who do you see is the type of person who would glow when they put your music on first thing in the morning (or last thing after a late night)?
I guess I hope that there is not a specific type of fan but that it could resonate with any different type of person. At this point, I am just grateful for anyone who listens to the music. The music I make is very personal and I p a lot of detail I’ve had such incredible experiences meeting people or reading messages from people who connect with specific songs. Sometimes they take the time to tell me what it means to them or how it affected them personally, those moments are everything to me. I’ve also really loved getting to see how other artists use the songs—to create covers, choreography, paintings, videos, and anything. Because everything is so digital now, and usually just numbers on a screen, it makes those instances of real connection so special. It reminds me why I love music.
What’s the main goal – or goals – for 2023?
Finishing the EP of songs for Servant was definitely a goal—I can’t wait for it to exist all as one project. Writing for this show has meant so much to me. After that, I have my own album coming out at the end of the spring, and I will also be touring around that time as well. I’m also working on a really exciting project that will take up most of this year—it’s pretty under wraps right now, but more on that soon!